Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold as mere anarchy is loosed upon Nri community in Anaocha local government area of Anambra state. Agu-ukwu Nri and Ikenga Nri, the two major quarters that comprise Nri town have both drawn the battle line over which quarter should produce the next Eze-Nri because Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh the former king has gone to join his ancestors and the traditional stool is currently vacant. While Agu-ukwu Nri says that Eze-Nri is not political and not for sale, Ikenga-Nri is of the opinion that no quarter is a slave to the other and to that extent, it is the right of Ikenga Nri to produce the next traditional ruler of Nri town. From investigations, the town seems to be sitting on a keg of gun powder waiting to explode at the slightest prompting.
Little wonder then why Nri, which is said to be the cradle of Igbo nation should be enmeshed in kingship bravado especially as it is customary that the town would remain without an Eze for seven years until the final Ofala festival of the late Eze is performed to enable him to bid farewell to his subjects and transit to eternity while a new king is coronated after a rigorous process of spiritual rebirth and purification as approved by certain 24 elders and native doctors of Nri town. The question of who succeeds the late Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh has become a subject of discord and acrimony as allegations of Agu-ukwu Nri holding so tenaciously to the traditional stool has become the order of the day in the area. It is as a result of the foregoing that our correspondent sought to unravel the mystery surrounding who becomes the next Eze-Nri in Nri community.
Prophet Dr. Ramas Okoye Asuzu, a core traditionalist and custodian of Igbo culture who hails from Uruofolo village from the Ikenga-Nri axis of the community said they had been sidelined for too long from the kingship of the community and that this time they were prepared to fight it to the end until the king emerges from their domain. Asuzu who went down memory lane to lend credence to his claims, noted that “Nri has been in crisis for decades, over 30 years since after the death of EzeNri Nrijiofor Tabansi. The kingdom is divided into two, Agukwu-Nri and Ikenga (Ifite) Nri and the case is still in the Supreme Court up till today waiting for the verdict. Ikenga Nri has been having kings before the coming of the Agukwu-Nri to the area. Then, there was a problem in 1115 when Nri Namoko who was the king from Diodo village in Akamkpisi quarters was not taken good care of, he was sick and his nephew, Nribuife came to look after him. He bestowed ‘Ofo na Alo – the symbols of royal authority – on Nribuife and ordered him not to go back to his people and should as well take over the throne of kingship over the entire town. Nribuife accepted the oath never to depart from Akamkpisi and Diodo where the original throne of Nri Namoko domiciled. He was crowned the king at a place called ‘Eke Agu’ and should be there but after about 10 years, the Agukwu people allegedly conspired and told Eze Nribuife to leave the Ekeagu palace and return to them.
“Then they took an oath that the kingship should only rotate among the Nribuife lineage which is made up of three villages, Uruoji, Agbadani and Obeagu, and that is a taboo as far as I am concerned. That is where Nri started messing itself up and since then, the Nri kingship struggle started rearing its ugly head from time immemorial. But we are saying that enough is enough, nobody is a slave in Nri kingdom and no village is excluded from producing a king; it could come from Umuochogu in Obeagu village or from Akamkpisi quarters. It was only Diodo village in Akampisi community that was placed a curse and unless they appease the gods of the land that the curse would be removed. So, the curse did not affect Uruofolo and Ekwenaanyika villages in the same Akamkpisi community.
“For record purposes, Uruofolo is the oldest aborigine in Nri kingdom and they are the rightful owners of the town. Therefore , the next king will automatically come from Uruofolo village which is the oldest occupant of the land. The village has the authority and power in Nri kingdom and it was Uruofolo that gave Uruoji village where to be settled within Nise community after they must have fought Nise over land occupation. It was also Uruofolo that gave Agbadani village and Diodo lands they are occupying now. So, nobody can argue it and it is their turn to produce the next king. Formerly, Uruofolo was watching, asking them how could a visitor possess the powers and authority of an aborigine in taking kingship vows.
“Initially, the king from Nri kingdom was not crossing any river but it has been reversed at present. So, the next people to take over the kingship should be the Uruofolo village, there is no negotiation about it. Is it not absolute marginalization when Uruoji, Agbadani, Obeagu and Diodo have produced kings and now it is supposed to be shifted to Uruofolo by right, people started playing pranks. I wish to see any person that can swear with their children in contradiction to this deliberate marginalization just like I have sworn. Yes, that is what I am saying and that is what it supposes to be. No matter the tricks they will adopt or conspiracy between the moneybags and the Anambra state government, it will never work this time. What everyone needs and expects in the entire community is the rotational kingship.
“I repeat, no village or villages should take the kingship as exclusively preserved for their generations and generations unborn. As I said, it is only Diodo village that was cursed by Eze Nri Namoko and placed embargo from the right of kingship in Nri until they pay the price as was ordered. At this point, the curse was not laid on entire Akamkpisi, so when the next king emerges from Uruofolo, it will be easier to break it because it is only the crowned king that has the power and authority to pronounce the abolishment of the curse on Diodo.
“The Adamas and the king work together. After coronating EzeNri by the Adamas, they will bring two young people among them that will assist in the affairs of EzeNri at the palace. As the kingmakers, they also give ‘ofo’ to the new king after his coronation. But in later time, due to the problem between Agukwu-Nri and Ikenga Nri, they turned Adamas as only the servant of EzeNri, even at this, no Adama attacked the wrong impression. It is of recent they started gathering together to form what they called Adama in Council and signed for ‘Okwudolueze’ which I have never seen such a weak action. Adama seems to be confused by having conspired to relegate the head of Adama, the oldest man, Chief S.O. Mbanefo, from their council by mere sideling him in whatever they are doing which can as well be attributed as a taboo. Though, they are not united, they are still the kingmakers.
“I had a dream where the ancestors were beckoning at me to return home to my fatherland. I obeyed the voice of the ancestors, I returned as just a common evangelist. As my father was about to die, he handed an ’ofo’ to me and prayed that I should project my town and shortly after, he gave up. From then, I projected Igbo culture and tradition for over 17 years. I took the title of Nze na Ozo and later, the Obas from Ikenga Nri came to me and asked me to take Oba title which I did. After a year, they came back again and introduced me into the highest traditional title initiation, Ezeoba title, which was taken last by one Atuanya and no other person living has such title.
“After the discussion, I visited Ogbumuo, Eze Ikenga Nri, to verify about the Ezeoba title which he confirmed that whoever that will be the EzeNri must be conferred the Ezeoba title.To further confirm, I went to the late traditional ruler of Nri kingdom, Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh who sat me down and told me that both him and his predecessor had such title before their coronations. He supported me to take the title and warned me to wait after his death before I should take over his throne.
“Then, I prepared for the chieftancy title and invited the cabinet members of Eze Onyesoh which they attended, after which Eze Onyesoh said that I should sit behind him, after him as the king, I should then be the next king. Eze Onyesoh equally conferred on me a title, ‘Odenigbo of Igboland’, which contributed to my superior titles nobody has equaled in the entire community. He also offered me an appointment ‘Onosolueze’ as the traditional minister of Nri but I told him that he should recognize Adamas for me to be coming to the palace sittings.
“He told me that Adama is the palace servant and that singular attribution made me to reject the appointment. But just imagine that I missed the royal offer at Eze’s palace because of the Adamas who conspired to fight my power and right in Nri kingdom. There must be a retributive justice. My advice to my people is to do the right thing at the right time. They should sit on the roundtable and make a proper pronouncement of rotational kingship in Nri because nobody is a slave to his fatherland. No quarter side is a slave in Nri kingdom and I believe that the best thing to do in order to enthrone peace is to adopt rotation of kingship to every community in Nri or at worst go back to status quo as we were in two communities. We don’t want bloodshed or people with money throwing around or even obtaining fictitious certificate from State Government House.”
Be that as it may, Mr.Samuel Nnamdi Abana, a renowned traditionalist who is a native of Uruoji village from the Agukwu quarters and well-grounded in the customs and traditions of Nri ancient kingdom, disputed the claims made by Dr. Ramas saying that Nri kingship is not got with money and neither is it contested because it is not political. He said that as it stands at the moment, nobody knows who will be the next Eze-Nri because the gods and ancestors of the land have not spoken. According to him, any individual posing or parading himself as the next candidate for Eze-Nri is only doing so at his own peril because the process of producing Eze-Nri is spiritual and not by physical power nor by might. He said that Ikenga-Nri does not exist in Nri town; that the town has six villages called Uruoji, Agbadana, Obeagu, Uruofolo, Ekwunaanyika and Diodo respectively. He emphasized that no part of Nri community is known as Ikenga-Nri and that the name Ikenga-Nri is a political coinage. Although the sage took cognisance of the fact that Nri community has a rotational kingship model, he explained that it is only the Nze na Ozo that performs rituals to ascertain the village from where the king would come from. Abana said about 27 Kings have ruled Nri community and each of them was identified by his ancestral spirits stressing that Nri kingshi is not a mortal affair but the exclusive preserve of the supernatural.
According to him, there is no crisis in Nri town over the next Eze-Nri because the time is not ripe yet for any person or village to venture into it until after seven years even as he pointed out that it is just two years ago that the last king left the palace and embarked on a journey to be with his ancestors. He said that at the appropriate time, the next Eze-Nri would emerge and that Nri tradition forbids anyone to act as king when the gods have not spoken. On the issue of whether Adama Nri are kingmakers in Nri town, Abana explained that the Adamas are not kingmakers per say but are responsible for bestowing Okpu-Eze on the king after when the king must have gone through series of spiritual cleansing and purification. He said no one becomes Eze-Nri without being given a certain mystic pot got from the depths of Omambala river and subsequent confirmation at Obu-Gad in Aguleri from whence Nri migrated.
Abana however admonished those clamoring for Eze-Nri to tread with caution because the kingship of Nri kingdom is not contested; that those who ascended to the throne of Eze-Nri through agitations never lived to tell the story. He stressed that no one wrestles with the gods of the land and that Eze-Nri is the overall head of the Igbo race. The traditional medicine man who is the Akajiofor na Nri as well as the special adviser to the custodians of Nri tradition said no village is assumed to be next to produce Eze-Nri but maintained that when the time is right for the next king to emerge, the 24 elders of the six villages together with renowned medicine men will come together and consult the spirits of their ancestors through divinations to know who the cap fits to occupy the traditional stool of Nri kingdom. And until the appointed time comes, Nri town would remain without a monarch.